He never told anyone at the monastery
How he talked to the chickens as he took
The warm eggs from under them,
How he forgave their beaks, their sharp
Reminders of the privileges of motherhood.
He never even told the tree he came to
For its murmuring shade to wipe his brow
Of the Iowa summer. His best friend
Kept the bees, was becoming one himself,
Talked to the queen, he once confessed,
In bee, the sweet melodics of a love
That made nothing of the hive but sense.

Once when he was forty-five his sister came
From the East to visit him. She was allowed
To sit with him at meals but not to talk to anyone,
To listen while they ate, listen and meditate
On the scripture the senior reader chose.
She told her children how the Trappists' teeth
Scraped as they tried to chew the broth,
How the rosary beads sounded like rattlesnakes,
How she was afraid the whole time she was there
Of what she had become, how far she'd gone
Away from this holy silence, so far that she heard
The rattle of the bones each time her brother walked.

We got a crate of freshfed, handpacked eggs
From the monastery every couple months
During the war. The cardboard cups we kids used
To save our favorite stones could take an egg from here
To Timbuktu and back again my older brother bragged
Who otherwise had nothing much to do with miracles.
Every week my mother cracked a half a dozen open
To scramble us our Sunday eggs, she'd listen hard
For the silence that came tumbling out. Best part
Of the week, she'd say. That silence. Safe
In her own kitchen, among her gang of galoots
Who found in noise the harmonies of being young,
She would hide the silence of the eggs away
So she could have it with her afternoon tea.
She sometimes said when we were gone
She'd take the cloth, tuck herself inside a shell,
Not say another word till evening broke.

                                    Painted Bride Quarterly